State officials provided more details Friday on the reopening of schools this fall, including that parents will be allowed to opt out their children from in-person learning without having to demonstrate a risk of illness or other special circumstance.
The amended guidelines represent a shift from guidance released four weeks ago by Gov. Phil Murphy that required in-person instruction, though school districts were given latitude to decide the number of days students would be required to report in person, and whether they could also use online learning.
“All students are eligible for fulltime remote learning; eligibility cannot be conditioned on a family/guardian demonstrating a risk of illness or other selective criteria,” the guidance released Friday stated.
School districts must have clearly communicated policies on remote learning and procedures for students to transition back to in-person learning when they are ready, interim Education Commissioner Kevin Dehmer said Friday.
Murphy said a key factor in the shift was the state’s recently announced program that will target more than $50 million in COVID-19 relief money and private funding toward providing students with internet access and hardware. The state has estimated that as many as 230,000 students were hampered by a lack of access to technology during remote learning this past spring.
“Not everyone has space in their house, high-speed internet or the ability to go out and hire a tutor,” Murphy said. “Our plans have to encompass those objectives. Equity has to be at the center of all this.”
Guidelines released last month require schools to adopt a screening policy for students and staff, seek to maintain social distancing and require staff and visitors to wear masks. Students will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.
ROOM AT THE INN
Stockton University is renting 400 hotel rooms in a former Atlantic City casino to help spread out students this fall amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The university says it is finalizing an agreement with the owners of the Showboat hotel to provide student housing in the Boardwalk hotel that once was a casino.
Stockton says it is looking to reduce the density of student housing in dorms on its Atlantic City campus. It is renting 300 single rooms and 100 double rooms at the Showboat for the fall and spring semesters.
The Showboat will provide 250 dedicated parking spaces for students, who also will have access to the hotel’s amenities including a fitness center.
The rooms will be located on floors that will be occupied only by students, who will have exclusive use of one elevator bank to secure access to the floors.
The per-semester rates for the rooms will be $4,500 for a single and $3,800 for a double, which Stockton said “is competitive with” similar on-campus housing.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness or death.
Health officials reported 488 new cases and 36 additional deaths. The state now has more than more than 178,000 cases and nearly 14,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, with about 2,000 more deaths deemed probable. The number of patients hospitalized, in intensive care and on ventilators continued to trend downward.